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Majority of over 65s have never used the internet

Published 28/03/2018

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In a new briefing paper published this morning, Age Action calls for urgent support to tackle high rates of digital exclusion among older people who are in danger of being left behind in an increasingly online Ireland.

Supporting Digital Literacy Among Older People
Graduates from an Age Action Getting Started class.

Figures from Eurostat show that 50 per cent of people in Ireland aged between 65 and 74 have never been online compared with 16 per cent in Britain. In 2013, the Government described the number of people over 75 who are online as ‘negligible’.

Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications with Age Action, said: “An entire generation of older people is being left behind, cut off from all of the opportunities and benefits of being able to use the internet.

“Far fewer older people in Ireland are online compared with Britain and our other EU neighbours. As service providers like banks push customers to do their business online this is making it increasingly difficult for older people to get information and to access services.

“We know there are enormous social benefits for older people who are online and research shows it can reduce depression among older people by as much as 30 per cent.

“For many older people it is a vital link to friends and families, a way to explore new hobbies and interests, and some have turned their skills to starting businesses or highlighting social issues.”

Reform and invest

Age Action runs its own computer training programme, Getting Started, with funding from the Digital Skills for Citizens scheme run by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

Justin Moran continued: “We train thousands of older people to use the internet every year. We know they are as capable as anyone else of learning how to send emails, shop and bank online, or to use social media.

“But the resources are simply not there to cope with the demand for classes, to provide them in one-to-one settings or to enable older people to repeat classes to build up their confidence.

"The Government’s training programmes have helped tens of thousands people get online but the stark gap between internet use by older people in Ireland and among our EU neighbours shows just how much we need to improve."

Barriers to getting online

The paper identifies a number of barriers preventing older people getting online including ageism, a lack of confidence, the absence of broadband locally and cost, which was highlighted as a factor in research from Britain.

In June, a new Telephone Support Allowance of €2.50 a week will be introduced for those who qualify for the means-tested Fuel Allowance and live alone.

Justin Moran said: “A broadband-only deal could cost as much as €50 a month, which is a lot for someone on the State Pension. Older people, particularly those living alone, should not be priced off the internet.

“The new funding is very welcome but it’s far smaller than the old Telephone Allowance used to be and restricted to a small number of people. We’d like to see the Government increase it over the next two budgets.”

The paper sets out a number of recommendations on how to support older people to get online, see below, and Age Action will be seeking to meet with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and other policymakers in the coming weeks.

Main recommendations

  1. Immediately double funding for the Digital Skills for Citizens Grant Scheme to €4.4 million in Budget 2019 to provide more training places and to improve the scheme’s coverage in rural Ireland.
  2. Reform the Digital Skills for Citizens Grant Scheme to provide financial incentives to organisations to provide one-to-one training, to allow learners to repeat classes to build their confidence, to provide training in the older person’s home where this is necessary and to provide technical support to the newly online.
  3. Support older people on low incomes to access the internet by increasing the Telephone Support Allowance to €4 per week over the next two budgets at an estimated approximate cost of €17 million.
  4. Develop and roll out a national digital skills learning programme, integrating it with existing community infrastructure, particularly libraries and post offices, and consider looking to the British Online Centres Network and AbilityNet in Britain as potential models.

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World Refugee Day

 Today, June 20th is World Refugee Day. The number of people fleeing war, persecution and conflict exceeded 70 million in 2018. This is the highest level that UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has seen in its almost 70 years. Data from UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report, released this week shows that almost 70.8 million people are now forcibly displaced. To put this in perspective, this is double the level of 20 years ago, 2.3 million more than a year ago, and corresponds to a population between that of Thailand and Turkey.   Today, older refugees make up some 8.5 per cent of the overall population of concern to UNHCR, and by 2050 more of the world will be over 60 than under 12. Older refugees experience an additional burden due to their age and associated conditions. In a report published by the Centre for Policy on Ageing and Age UK, they identified that “the main issues facing older refugees and asylum seekers are low income, the language barrier, the risk of loneliness and a lack of social networks, and possibly a loss of social status”.  Reduced mobility and a high number of chronic medical conditions also greatly impact the life of an older refugee, as adequate and culturally appropriate healthcare is often difficult to access. As well, throughout their time in refugee shelters, older refugees are also more likely to experience social disintegration, the impact of negative social selection and chronic dependency on the resources of refugee shelters. According to the International Federation on Ageing “The contributions of older refugees can have far-reaching impacts on the preservation of the cultures and traditions of disposed and displaced people. The wisdom and experiences of older refugees must be harnessed through formal and informal leadership roles, to improve the welfare of all refugees”. Marion MacGregor, writing for InfoMigrants says “Older refugees can be seen as an asset, rather than simply requiring special care. In many families, it falls to them to look after children so that their parents can work….. Older people are transmitters of culture, skills and crafts that are important in preserving traditions of displaced people. The resilience of older people can help to strengthen communities and they can contribute to positive and peace-building interactions with the local host communities.”    

You might be due a tax refund

 

 

Revenue wants to make sure that everyone knows about the tax credits, reliefs and exemptions they are entitled to. Revenue wrote to some people recently telling them that they might be entitled to a tax refund going back as far as 2014.
If you think that you might also be due a tax refund for the year 2014, you need to submit a claim to Revenue before midnight on 31 December 2018. If you don’t want to miss out, submit your claim to Revenue before then.